Friday, January 19, 2018
Health

Like tobacco, e-cigarettes pose various health risks

A few weeks ago, a 62-year-old man came in for a followup after recent hospitalization for a mini stroke. He has now recovered seemingly without any residual weakness of the limbs.

"But my memory is all messed up," he said. "I can't seem to get the right words out … sometimes the names of people I know well just escape me." I reviewed his hospital charts and the neurologist had made a notation that the man may have had multiple mini strokes before, and that would explain his progressive deterioration of memory. In other words, he was exhibiting symptoms of some degree of vascular dementia.

"Do you smoke much?" I asked, and he promptly answered, "I used to … up to a pack and a half a day for the past 35 years, but I quit. Now I smoke only e-cigarettes."

"E-cigarettes? Why? They are also not good for your health," I said.

"Really! I thought I could replace the cigarettes with e-cigarettes. Aren't they harmless?" he asked. "I thought this would help me quit my smoking habit."

That's how most people start with electronic cigarettes. But instead of stopping after a few days or weeks, once the craving for real cigarettes is gone, they continue to smoke e-cigarettes, not knowing they can also be potentially harmful. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, a powerfully addictive agent.

Essentially, an e-cigarette is a small cartridge that holds a liquid solution containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals, a heating device or vaporizer and a battery for power.

Apart from the popular e-cigarettes, there are also e-pipes, e-hookah and e-cigars for your smoking, or shall we say "vaping," pleasure. All these Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, or ENDS, are designed to deliver nicotine in vapor form that is inhaled.

E-cigarettes have become the rage among teens and young adults, and the ENDS business has mushroomed into a billion-dollar enterprise, ready to take over from the traditional tobacco industry.

But are e-cigarettes safe? Although there's some debate among health experts, data about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes is emerging slowly. It appears that all the damage from tobacco cigarettes that we have been trying to prevent will now be reproduced by e-cigarette smoking.

When cigarettes were first introduced some 100 years ago, they were thought to be harmless. When it became apparent after several decades of use that cigarettes can cause widespread injury to the body, in some cases leading to cancer, heart attacks and strokes, the surgeon general came out with the warning that smoking is hazardous to your health. Now the same story is likely to be repeated with e-cigarettes.

Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause for morbidity and mortality in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thankfully, regular cigarette use has declined in recent years; the latest statistics reveal only 15 percent of adults smoke. We may have achieved a historic nadir in smoking cessation with its attendant health benefits, but with the popularity of e-cigarettes skyrocketing, these hard-won successes may soon be erased.

The nictotine in e-cigarettes is an incredibly addictive substance with potentially harmful vascular and neurologic effects. Nicotine can increase the production of catecholamine, a hormone that raises heart rate and blood pressure. Research presented at the European Society for Cardiology Congress in August found that the habitual use of e-cigarettes "adversely impacts the main artery of the heart, aorta, increasing its stiffness that in turn increases the workload of heart." Recent studies also show that nicotine inhalation alone has the power to cause artery constriction and harm to the lining of the arteries, leading to adverse cardiac events. In addition, the vapor from the heated liquid nicotine in some brands contains cancer-causing substances like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

E-cigarettes are being promoted as a means to wean smokers off combustible tobacco, but there is no proof that they are an effective quit aid. On top of that, they pose grave danger as gateways to lifelong e-cigarette addiction. In other words, one addiction is being replaced by another.

Another worry is that e-cigarettes may serve as an introductory product for young people who are likely to move on to real cigarettes later.

Until earlier this year, there was no federal oversight of the manufacture and marketing of ENDS. In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulatory authority was expanded to cover all tobacco products, including e-cicarettes, e-pipes and all other ENDS. As the use of such products escalates, with great potential for adverse health consequences, the importance of FDA regulation and control cannot be overemphasized.

We have already seen the devastation caused by tobacco smoking, and we don't want to witness a repeat with e-cigarettes. If you are an e-cigarette smoker, now is the time to quit. If you aren't, don't start.

Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan is a cardiologist with Crescent Community Clinic in Spring Hill.

Comments

Expect some pain. That’s what hospitals are starting to tell patients as concern spreads over opioids

Doctors at some of the largest U.S. hospital chains admit they went overboard with opioids to make people as pain-free as possible, and now they shoulder part of the blame for the nation’s opioid crisis. In an effort to be part of the cure, they’ve b...
Published: 01/19/18
This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

When Robert Owens’s father was 75, he gave his son some advice. "He said, ‘You know, son, the sad part is when you get old they just put you on a shelf and you become irrelevant. Fight to stay relevant. Fight to stay in the game, otherwise they will ...
Published: 01/18/18
5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

Five things we learned about President Donald Trump from Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the doctor who oversaw Trump’s first medical checkup in office. SLEEP Trump doesn’t get much shut-eye. Jackson guessed that Trump snoozes four to five hours a nig...
Published: 01/17/18
A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

WASHINGTON — The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after one of history’s most catastrophic disease o...
Published: 01/17/18
A popular school fundraiser is just ‘junk-food marketing to kids,’ experts say

A popular school fundraiser is just ‘junk-food marketing to kids,’ experts say

For 43 years, schoolkids and their parents have clipped the labels from cookie bags and cracker boxes as part of a popular rewards program called Labels for Education.Through this and similar programs — think Tyson’s Project A+ or General Mills’ Box ...
Published: 01/17/18
Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Feeling a little sniffly or scratchy or stuffed up? It may be the flu, and you don’t want to wait around to see a doctor this year. This is not the time to write off flu-like symptoms, Tampa Bay area health officials and doctors warn. The influenza v...
Published: 01/16/18

CDC says ‘There’s lots of flu in lots of places.’ And it’s not going away anytime soon.

A nasty flu season is in full swing across the United States, with a sharp increase in the number of older people and young children being hospitalized, federal health officials said Friday.The latest weekly data from the Centers for Disease Control ...
Published: 01/12/18
Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

SAFETY HARBOR — Mease Countryside Hospital is launching a $156 million expansion to build a four-story patient tower with all private rooms and a four-story parking garage.The tower will include 70 private patient rooms, a 30-bed observation unit, cr...
Published: 01/11/18
Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

This year’s flu season is shaping up to be a bad one. Much of the country endured a bitterly cold stretch, causing more people to be crowded together inside. The strain that has been most pervasive, H3N2, is nastier than most. And, we’re being told, ...
Published: 01/11/18
He was 21 and fit. He tried to push through the flu — and it killed him.

He was 21 and fit. He tried to push through the flu — and it killed him.

Kyler Baughman seemed to be the face of fitness. The 21-year-old aspiring personal trainer filled his Facebook page with photos of himself riding motorbikes and lifting weights. He once posted an image of a kettlebell with a skeleton, reading: "Cros...
Published: 01/11/18